The Galapagos Islands are a unique piece of nature in the world. From its fascinating volcanic origin, its extraordinary animals and dazzling landscapes make Galapagos a world to know. In other words having the opportunity to travel to the islands is an experience you will remember for the rest of your life. Here we show you 7 curious facts about the Galapagos Islands so you can learn a little more about this wonderful place.
1. 97% of the Galapagos is national park
The Galapagos Islands are considered a natural paradise, with extraordinary flora and fauna, amazing geological features and a number of unique species. For this reason, Galapagos plays a fundamental role in terms of scientific research. As a result, in 1978, UNESCO declared the Galapagos Islands a World Heritage Site. Certainly, it is one of the best preserved archipelagos and a world reference for the management of fragile ecosystems.
Galapagos includes two protected areas: the Galapagos National Park, which contains 97% of the land area. And the Galapagos Marine Reserve, which protects the surrounding marine environments. Therefore, these two areas are protected by Ecuadorian law. The remaining 3% of the land area, outside the national park, is home to some 30,000 people.
2. The most volcanic place
The Galapagos Islands are one of the most volcanically active places in the world. They are located at the top of a hot spot in the western Pacific. They were created by magma repeatedly breaking through the seafloor and forming layer after layer of rock, until they became islands.
There are currently 13 active volcanoes in the archipelago. In the last century there have been several volcanic eruptions. The last recorded eruption was from the Sierra Negra volcano in 2018. Fortunately this event did not affect the habitat of endemic species such as pink iguanas.
3. Darwin’s inspiration
The natural scientist Charles Darwin had his source of inspiration for the development of the Theory of Evolution in the enchanted islands. This theory is known to have been based on the study of finches. But in reality, Darwin’s studies were based on mockingbirds. Each mockingbird was a different species from itself.
4. They were the first national park in Ecuador
The Galapagos National Park was declared Ecuador’s first protected area on July 4, 1959. It covers 7,995.4 square kilometers of land area. The Marine Reserve covers 138,000 square kilometers.
The islands are a world reference in terms of sustainable management where humans live in harmony with nature. Galapagos is home to more than 7,000 endemic and native species. For this reason, the islands are considered a true sanctuary for animal life.
5. The unique Penguin in the Northern Hemisphere
The Galapagos Islands are located approximately 1,000 km off the coast of mainland Ecuador. Therefore, they are a tropical place. The climate of the Galapagos Islands is unique due to the marine and air currents. And this natural paradise is the only place in the northern hemisphere where you can see penguins in their natural habitat.
The Galapagos penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus) is the second smallest species of its kind. The main places where they can be found are Fernandina and on the west coast of Isabela Island. Unfortunately, they are an endangered species. In short, only about 1,500 penguins remain.
6. Home of 3 different species of Booby Birds
The Galapagos Islands are home to 3 species of the Sulidae bird family. These birds were nicknamed bobos -dum in Spanish- because of their clumsiness when walking on land. But in the air they are amazing flyers. The boobies most loved by tourists are the Blue footed boobies. Their most outstanding feature is the bright blue color of their legs.
Nazca boobies or masked boobies are the easiest to see in Galapagos. The Nazca booby is known as the masked booby because of its distinctive head markings. There are between 15,000 and 20,000 breeding pairs on the islands.
Finally, the red-footed booby, this species can be clearly distinguished, thanks to its large crimson palmate legs. Despite being the bobby species with the largest population numbers, this bird is difficult to see.
Each of the three species of boobies has its own characteristics in both appearance and behavior. For example, red-footed boobies use tree branches and shrubs as nesting areas. While blue-footed boobies and Nazca boobies nest on the ground a little further inland.
7. Galapagos Giant Tortoises can live over 100 years!
Giant tortoises are one of the most iconic animals of the Galapagos Islands. These prehistoric-looking land animals can live more than 100 years, making them one of the longest-living terrestrial vertebrates. Tortoises can be seen on all inhabited islands (Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela and Floreana).
You can learn much more about the history and characteristics of these tortoises at the Charles Darwin Research Station. And you can also see them at the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center on Isabela Island.
Amazing, isn’t it? Now you know more about some interesting facts about the Galapagos Islands. Don’t think twice, come and discover this wonderful world. Join one of our tours and enjoy an unforgettable trip.